Don’t Quarantine People with HIV/AIDS

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Target: Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback and Kansas state legislators

Goal: To stop legislators from allowing people with HIV/AIDS to be quarantined.

A bill that started out as an attempt to protect the health of paramedics and firefighters in Kansas now has the potential to be used to quarantine individuals with HIV and AIDS. Originally, the bill known as House Bill 2183 would allow emergency professionals who are exposed to bodily fluids to obtain a blood test of the victim without a court order, allowing for immediate treatment if necessary. Kansas legislators, however, have added language to the bill that would also allow for people with HIV and AIDS to be quarantined, which is currently not allowed under Kansas law. While emergency professionals deserve protection for their health, the latter aspect of the bill is discriminatory and unnecessary.

During the early days of the AIDS epidemic, questions of quarantining individuals with the disease ran rampant amongst medical professionals and the general population. Some concerns stemmed from a lack of understanding about the virus, but many people used the epidemic as a means to express and justify their homophobia by blaming gay people for contracting the disease and calling the homosexual “lifestyle” a public health risk. These claims were not credible then and can no longer be excused by ignorance now, as we have learned that HIV/AIDS is only transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk, not through the air or social contact. Simply put, a quarantine of people with HIV/AIDS is ineffective.

Despite the medical reality, many people still believe in the homosexual “public health risk” rationale, which makes the language of the bill dangerous to individuals with HIV/AIDS, particularly in the LGBT community. If signed into law, it could be used to further justify irrational arguments and discriminate against others. The bill has already been passed in both the state Senate and state House, and it is currently being finalized by a conference committee before it heads to the governor to be signed into law. Sign the petition below to tell the state legislature and Governor Sam Brownback that this bill must not pass until HIV/AIDS is excluded from the quarantine list.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas state legislators,

What began as a commendable act to protect the health of emergency professionals now has the potential to be used to discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. The initial purpose of House Bill 2183 was to  allow emergency professionals who are exposed to bodily fluids to obtain a blood test of the victim without a court order. Since being introduced, however, language has been added to the bill that would also allow for people with HIV/AIDS to be quarantined. While emergency professionals deserve protection for their health, the latter aspect of the bill is discriminatory and unnecessary.

To some, the “quarantine question” for HIV/AIDS patients may not seem harmful or discriminatory because, after all, it is a serious disease. But historical evidence and our advanced medical knowledge proves that quarantine is not necessary or effective. In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, questions of quarantining individuals with HIV/AIDS were popular amongst medical professionals and the general population. Some concerns stemmed from a lack of understanding about the virus, but many people used the epidemic as a means to express and justify their homophobia by blaming gay people for contracting the disease and calling the homosexual “lifestyle” a public health risk. These claims were not credible then and can no longer be excused by ignorance now, as we have learned that HIV/AIDS is not transmitted through the air or social contact, but only through blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. A quarantine of people with HIV/AIDS is simply ineffective.

Despite the medical reality, many people still believe in the “public health risk” rationale. This makes the language of the bill dangerous to individuals with HIV/AIDS, particularly in the LGBT community. The law could be used to further justify these irrational arguments and discriminate against others. We ask that you do not pass this bill without removing HIV/AIDS from the quarantine list.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: dbking via Wikimedia Commons

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